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Ponzi Vineyards
It's a Family Affair

By Heather Wood
published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Food & Wine section
Friday, September 19, 2009

On the eve of its 40th anniversary as a leader in fine wine production in Oregon, Ponzi Vineyards is one of the Willamette Valley's exceptional vintners, maintaining that quality, consistency and sustainable practices go hand in hand. Since the winery's inception in 1970, Nancy and Dick Ponzi have understood that the relationship between the land and exceptional wines couldn't be ignored. They are returning for the fifth year to the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, and are this year's featured winery at the Live Auction & Guest Chefs Luncheon at the Eldorado Hotel. The vineyard also received the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta Honorary Wine Achievement Award. The Ponzi's will be pouring eight distinctive Ponzi wines from 10 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Friday (Sept. 25) at La Fonda.

As a Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) Certified Sustainable vineyard, Ponzi is a leader in progressive agricultural practices that ensures a fabulous outcome in the glass. Having been members of LIVE for over a decade, the vineyard was "one of the first to be certified," says director of marketing and sales, and daughter, Maria Ponzi. "It's critical to our family philosophy to remain sustainable and responsible stewards of the land as we continue to grow the business."

According to the LIVE website, liveinc.org, LIVE "is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that provides education and certification for vineyards and wineries. LIVE uses international standards of sustainable viticultural and enological practices in both wine-grape and wine production. These practices are based on an independent 3rd-party-verified checklist system consisting of required and prohibited elements, as well as numerous ecological options."

Less than an hour from Portland, Ore., the vineyard is truly a family affair. "I was one of three children to grow up in the family business," Maria Ponzi said. She says that her parents, Nancy and Dick, "never pushed us into it. Luisa, my older sister, is now our wine maker, and my brother, Michel, is director of operations." Ponzi explained that after college she was "trying to get away from it. But I realized how lucky I was to be part of this." She has been promoting the family product ever since.

The vineyard has been a Wine Spectator magazine Top 100 "numerous times," according to Ponzi. The family also started one of the first Pacific Northwest microbreweries, BridgePort Brewing Co., in 1984. The successful venture was sold 10 years later to allow the Ponzi clan to focus the winery. "We prefer to continue to perfect our craft of producing the very best wines each year. For us," she said, "it's important to deliver a consistent and high-value product to our customers."

Innovative steps such as producing Italian varietals in the Oregon climate is one feature that sets this vineyard apart. While the winery is mostly known for its pinot noir, Ponzi noted that "the white wines are pretty spectacular and show very well."

The 2006 Chardonnay Reserve is a result of earlier ripening, creating a wine that Ponzi said, "is unusual. Folks don't expect that. It has a very Burgundian characteristic, with American appeal. Mineral traits with a hint of butterscotch," are just some of the highlights to expect from this bottling.

Maria Ponzi and her parents, Nancy and Dick, will be attending the luncheon as well as pouring at the Grand Fiesta and the Reserve Tasting. Their special donation to the live auction is sure to beef up the bidding.

"We put together a package for two guests. It includes an overnight stay at one of the valley's newest inns; a tour and tasting of the Carlton Winemakers Studio; a tour and tasting of our new winery; dinner at our regional restaurant The Dundee Bistro, and a signed magnum of 2007 Ponzi Pinot Noir," Ponzi said.

According to the Wine Spectator, Dick and Nancy Ponzi's leadership and quality winemaking have helped drive Oregon for more than 25 years. "This family's commitment to quality and conservation is the underlying background to their success. The second generation of Ponzis now at the helm will no doubt ensure that the family traditions carry on: respecting the craft and artisanship of wine-making, and caring for the land and the grapes which are essential to the what ends up making a winery, its wines, and its stewards, worth writing about."


Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.

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